Make an Effort to Connect with People

She was cheerful. She makes people laugh, but she is often misunderstood because of her poor English. She sings, she dances, and most of the time, she smiles. I always see her barefoot while picking some flowers at the garden. She even plays football with us. These were some of the things I noticed about my friend, Wanida. Everybody loves her. Her simplicity, genuine kindness, and compassion make her who she is.

One time, we had a conversation in class. We were facing each other and I saw her eyes in focus. I knew that within her, there were stories to be told, but importantly, waiting to be listened to. Then she started talking, “In my age, I know that I may no longer be able to get married.” I was confused. I never thought this thing mattered to her despite the “happiness” I had witnessed. So, I replied, “What do you mean?” She answered, with a voice signalling tears, “People see me smile and often act as if the world is so perfect for me. However, within me there is fear that until now I wanted to overcome. Yes, marriage matters because it brings happiness with someone you love. I am sick and I do not know when I am leaving this world, today or tomorrow.” She started crying. That very moment, I didn’t know what to say, and a mere hug was the only response I could offer.

Kuya, it means brother. Fikri is a guy whom I considered my eldest brother in the group. I witnessed the “brother figure” in him. He was kind and he knows how to share the things he has. And if there’s a distinct trait I mostly like about Kiki is that he never sugarcoated things for the sake of comfort.

Early afternoon while in class, I received a message from my cousin. The message said,“Patay na si Lolo Intoy” (Grandpa has died). At first, I didn’t know what to say because it was so sudden. I wanted to go back home, but I was too far away to make it, especially since I committed myself to a study program abroad. I went out of the classroom without my teacher’s permission. I entered the main house, sat on a wooden chair and started crying. I tried to hide myself from everyone, but the silence in the area that seemingly tried to extend empathy and comfort only triggered my emotions. Fikri passed by and asked, “What happened?” I didn’t say a single word. He hugged me and I started crying again.

The next day, he asked Rose, one of my professors. “Is it necessary to feel empathy for someone? Because yesterday, when RJ hugged me and started crying. Without any clue about what happened, for a minute or two, I felt nothing. Then, he was still heavily crying for five minutes… that’s when I felt a connection.”

I knew that even if I left Fikri with no answers, my tears were enough to tell him that there was something wrong.  His interesting question made me think of how people react to things that really matter to us. Oftentimes, when we’re stuck in despair, we try to seek comfort from someone; not because we want attention, but to get rid of loneliness. We may hear comforting words that serve as a symbol of empathy. However, have we asked ourselves, “Do they truly care?”

Sometimes we do not know what lies within a person. It gave me the idea how important human connection is, connection that brings people together with mutual understanding and respect.

About the Contributor

RJ Barrete, a peace and youth advocate and our customer, works as a researcher in a lobbying/government relations and political management firm in the Philippines. Visit his blog.

This contributor is a customer of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf®.

See all of RJ Barrete's posts →

Photo by Pao Cuarteron. For more of his photography and adventures, visit his Instagram.

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